AI-generated image of people 'climbing Burj Khalifa' fools Facebook users

A Dubai-based digital artist clarified that he used artificial intelligence to create an image of people climbing the Burj Khalifa after it surfaced in Facebook posts portraying it as a real photo. The picture appearing to show swarms of people clinging onto the world's tallest building in the United Arab Emirates circulated online as heavy flooding lashed the desert country.

"Because of the floods, people swarmed the Burj Khalifa!" read a Tagalog-language Facebook post that shared the image on April 20, 2024.

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, captured April 30, 2024

Record rains caused widespread flooding in April 2024 that brought the oil-rich United Arab Emirates to a standstill.

Financial hub Dubai -- home to the Burj Khalifa -- suffered severe disruption, with flooded highways and more than 2,000 flights cancelled at Dubai airport, the world's busiest for international passengers.

The image circulated on Facebook around the world, including on pages that gave their locations as Kenya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Some appeared to believe the picture was genuine.

"May Allah protect and keep everyone safe," one Facebook user commented.

"Were they scared of the flood? That's why they climbed," another wrote.

However, the image is AI-generated.


A Google reverse image search found the image shared in Instagram posts here and here that credited it to @jyo_john_mulloor (archived links here and here). 

This username is also visible at the bottom of the image.

A search for @jyo_john_mulloor on Instagram found the profile of Jyo John Mulloor, a digital artist whose bio reads: "All artworks created with artificial intelligence" (archived link). 

Mulloor posted the Burj Khalifa picture on Instagram on April 12 (archived link). 

The caption read: "Breaking Ai News: Unprecedented Crowds Flood Downtown Dubai During Eid Celebration".

Below is a screenshot comparison of the image shared in false posts (left) and in Mulloor's original post (right): 

Screenshot comparison of the false Facebook post (left) and the original image (right)

Mulloor confirmed to AFP that he made the Burj Khalifa picture using a mixture of AI software and photo editing tool Photoshop. 

His profile features various images that he said were made with AI.

Screenshots of Instagram posts showing AI-generated artwork by Jyo John Mulloor

AFP has published tips to spot AI-generated images and debunked various false claims about the Dubai floods here, here and here.

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